Keeping Access Tools Available, Always

On the weekend of 9/11, I was again reminded of how important it is always to keep the accessibility tools out and available.  In particular, this post is about emergency evacuation stairchairs.   On 9/11, those tools saved at least one life, and the need to have them available was clearly shown (more information can be found on Evacuation Chair Lifts).  However, with time, comes complacency, and that can have potentially deadly consequences. 

John Abruzzo and an Evac Chair

As many of you know, my oldest son uses a wheelchair as he has Cerebral Palsy. This weekend, he was at an all-day meeting on Saturday, on the 2nd floor of a building.  Very early into the meeting, the fire alarm went off.   As they went to evacuate, the elevators were not working because of the fire alarm.  He went to the stairs- and no evacuation chair.  He ended up being carried down the stairs by two of the other attendees of the meeting, one being the director of the agency the meeting was being held at.  

Thankfully, there was no fire; the alarm had been triggered by power-washing in another part of the building.  If there had been a fire, my son would still have been safe, as the two individuals were able to get him down the stairs.  But, what if the other attendees were physically unable to carry him down the stairs?  What if there had been a real fire? The director of the agency was rightfully upset at the lack of the evacuation chair at the stairwell, as was my son.  One was found later that day, you guessed it, in a closet.  If it is not available and easily accessible, how is it helpful? 

I know that the agency will be contacting the building owner about getting the evacuation chair mounted in the stairwell, as they serve many people with disabilities.  But this incident just highlights to me that having tools out of closets is so very important, always. You never know when an emergency will happen.  The tools don’t help if they cannot be found.